Masala Chai

Chai is the Bengali, Urdu, Hindi (and a lot of other Indian languages) word for TEA.  In Arabic or Farsi it’s pronounced “Shai”.  The word literally and simply means tea.  In most South Asian countries when we add spices to our tea, we call it “Masala Chai”  which means Tea with Spices.  In recent years, the western world has discovered this Tea with Spices and have marketed it with fervor in various formats calling it Chai Tea (which is like saying “Tea Tea”).  Growing up in Bangladesh, Chai is a quintessential part of everyday life.  It’s the most basic form of hospitality. It is always offered, everywhere.   You can walk into a bank to open an account and five minutes into the transaction Chai will be offered and poured.  You usually have to specify if you want Masala Chai or regular Chai.  Regular Chai is always prepared with milk and sugar while Masala Chai has a variety of spices which makes it delicious and fragrant.  This sharing of Chai is so cultural that no business is conducted without it nor any meaningful conversation.  The making, pouring and drinking of tea by nature slows things down.  You know that you cannot go anywhere without allowing some time for tea drinking.  I miss that living in the West.  We rush around so much everyday that often we miss making connections with each other in meaningful ways.

I’m sharing with you my version of Masala Chai. Pull up a chair, relax and take a drink.  I’ll have my cup out too!

Ingredients at a glance
Add crushed Cardamoms with the pods to the milk and water mixture
Bring milk, water and spice mixture to a low simmer
Add tea bags and then sugar to taste
Use strainer when pouring to strain out the spices
Masala Chai
Making quilts and drinking Masala Chai with friends

Here’s the recipe:

Masala Chai

2 cups 1% or skim milk

3 1/2 cups of water

2 Cinnamon sticks

5 green Cardamom pods, crushed

4-5 whole cloves

1/4 cup sugar

4 tea bags

In a sauce pan heat milk and water together.  Add the spices (including the Cardamom pod skin and seeds) and bring to a low simmer.  Add in the tea bags until the color becomes a light, nutty brown.  Slowly add in the sugar (if you prefer more sugar add more or if you want to leave out the sugar you can as well).  Stir until sugar is dissolved.  Using a strainer over each cup, pour tea and serve.  For a refreshing summertime drink you can serve this chilled or over ice.

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